In many instances, the producer chosen to work with an artist on a new record should never be more than a footnote. When someone who is an artist themselves steps into the producer’s chair like Sturgill Simpson or Dan Auerbach, it makes that footnote a little more interesting. But ultimately there is a reason the performer’s name is on the front cover of an album in bold, and the producer is listed in fine print in the back. And that’s the way it should be.
Nonetheless, it felt quite significant this week when Miranda Lambert revealed in a Rolling Stone interview that she’s doing something that she hasn’t done over the 14 years and six major studio albums of her career, which is switch producers. A long time collaborator with Frank Liddell, with Glen Worff also working with her on the last few albums, Miranda has let it be known she’s now going with well-known mainstream country producer Jay Joyce on her next record due out in the fall. This feels a lot more noteworthy than just a footnote.
The husband of Lee Ann Womack and the founder of publishing house Carnival Music, Frank Liddell has been one of the main individuals in Miranda Lambert’s corner from the beginning of her career. Though Lambert’s radio success has always been spotty, Liddell has been the Miranda Lambert producer over a period where she won seven total CMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards, and two CMA Album of the Year Awards (Revolution and Platinum). Miranda’s won more CMA awards than anyone in the last decade. Frank Liddell and Miranda Lambert have been a winning combination to say the least.
Frank Liddell specializes in producing the women of country music, as well as Texas artists, and others that are a little right or left of center of the country mainstream. Liddell helped produce the Pistol Annies records as well, early material from Brandi Carlile and stepdaughter Aubrie Sellers, his wife Lee Ann Womack of course, and the last two records from Kellie Pickler, including Saving Country Music’s 2012 Album of the Year, 100 Proof. David Nail, Stoney LaRue, Chris Knight, and Wade Bowen also have worked with Liddell. His style is thought to be less sales pitch and pastiche, and more substance, making him unique in Nashville.
Meanwhile Jay Joyce brings and entirely different resume to the table. Miranda Lambert has been saying ahead of the new album that it will have a rock ‘n’ roll edge, and a new song she debuted at CMA Fest called “Locomotive” appears to confirm that. Bringing in Jay Joyce underscores and puts an exclamation point behind this more edgy approach. As the long-time producer of Eric Church, Jay Joyce’s claim to fame is bringing rock stylings to mainstream country. Along with Church, Joyce has also worked with Ashley McBryde and Brothers Osborne who both veer more in the rock direction. But Joyce also has a track record of working with women without a rock edge like Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, and Brandy Clark. Similar to Frank Liddell, Jay Joyce is a bit of a maverick on Music Row.
With the sound that Miranda Lambert is going for on the new record, Jay Joyce might be just about the perfect fit. The only question is if Jay Joyce is if it’s a perfect fit for Miranda Lambert in general. Her last record The Weight Of The Wings had a more laid back Americana feel, and this new project will definitely be a change of pace. One thing is for sure, when the Miranda Lambert biography is written, moving on from Frank Liddell will be marked as the end of an era. We’ll just have to see if working with Jay Joyce will be the start of another, and what the reception will be.